Google to Pay $17 Million Over Safari Cookie Placement

Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) will have to cough up a few dollars to settle a dispute over its delivery of web "cookies." The Internet giant will pay a total of $17 million to a group of states over the unauthorized placement of data bits through Apple's Safari web browsers in 2011 and 2012.

Cookies are small strings of data used to hold information about users. The states alleged that, without notification, Google circumvented Safari's third-party cookie-blocking capabilities in order to track users' browsing history.

 In addition to the fine, Google has agreed to several injunctive relief measures. These include:

  • not using the type of code it allegedly utilized to avoid the Safari blocking settings unless user consent is obtained or such utilization is necessary to "address fraud, security or technical issues."
  • a vow not to "misrepresent or omit material information to consumers about how they can use any particular Google product, service, or tool to directly manage how Google serves advertisements to their browsers."
  • clarifying for users how and why it uses cookies and how users can manage this.
  • the maintenance of "systems designed to ensure the expiration of the third-party cookies set on Safari Web browsers while [users'] default settings had been circumvented."

All told, 37 states plus the District of Columbia were part of the investigation and subsequent settlement.

This is not the first time Google has had to pay a penalty for such actions. In August 2012, it handed over a record $22.5 million fine from the Federal Trade Commission over similar charges regarding its alleged circumvention of Safari privacy settings. 

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